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Leading by Example at Ukwanda Puppets & Design Art Collective

By Mzukona Mantshontsho

UKWANDA PUPPETS & DESIGN ART COLLECTIVE was formed by the previous members of Handspring Puppet Company, specialising in puppetry design and theatre productions.

I recently had a chat with Communications Director at Ukwanda Puppets & Design Art Collective Siphokazi Mpofu about her personal and professional journey thus far.

Tell me about your Early Life

I was born in a small village called Banzi Port. I did my schooling from Cofimvaba Village Junior Secondary School followed by my high school at Manyano High School in Cape Town, followed by my higher studies at Northlink College in Cape Town Western Cape. I worked at Unima South Africa as Art Admin in 2013. In 2014, I got an internship at Handspring Puppet Company as Arts Admin Intern through the support of Unima SA. Between arts admin I was also an artist and puppeteer. Today I am communication director, arts admin, actor, puppeteer and puppet maker at Ukwanda Puppets & Designs Art Collective.

What does your role mean Daily?

It depends on what we are busy with, because I can be at the workshop making puppets, if not, I’m doing paper work, if not, I’m performing.

What are you currently working on?

Our short film “The NEW Normal” is out on You Tube that we’ve been working on during lockdown from home. New work is still on the pipeline, so, I cannot talk about it now but it’s going to be a children’s show.

If you had all the powers that be, what would you change?

All communities would have theatres and a school of art so that even if you from the township, you can go to these institutions and polish your talent. I would make sure everyone is getting salaries out of this craft called arts.

Your thoughts on Leadership?

Positivity is the most important tool and intellectual honesty. Don’t be afraid to speak what’s on your mind and lead by example. I’m a good-hearted person who is easy to communicate with.

Your Legacy

I would love to pass the skills that I have to the younger generation. We need to tell the younger generation that everything is possible it’s in our hands, we need to push ourselves to work harder for a better tomorrow than saying I cannot do this it’s man’s work. Let’s not wait from the leaders who keeps on failing us.

How does the collective give back to the community?

Ukwanda Puppets and Designs Art Collective contributes to the community by doing free puppetry workshops, free puppetry performances. We want to do away with the mentality of puppetry is for the white people. Puppetry is art there for is for everyone. We teach them how to make puppets and create their own stories and perform with the puppets that they made.

Your highs and lows in your working career?

Being in the Arts industry it’s quite hard, you only get money when there’s gig. If there’s no gig, there’s no money. But because of my love for my craft I am not about to give up or feel the pressure from home when they asking what exactly are you doing. Today I am here surviving the collective is doing good.

What do you say to young people about starting a business?

You need to believe in yourself, be positive and not be afraid to try and challenge yourself. Your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.

What are your thoughts on Covid-19 in relation to small businesses?

Covid-19 caused a lot of damage small businesses are close down, people are losing jobs, I think now it’s time for government to open the whole country because things are not back to normal yet.

When you not at work, what do you get up to?

I love my early morning jogs; they keep me refreshed and focussed and I make some time to meet my family who are living around but not living with me.

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